Architect Manuel Aires Mateus’ own home, located within an 18th-century building in the heart of Lisbon, was conceived as an ever-evolving space that he and his family can cherish for years to come.

In an exclusive film, Aires Mateus Architects, cofounder and architect Manuel Aires Mateus guides us through his historic family home on Lisbon’s Rua De São Mamede. Occupying the ground floor of a five-storey building that had endured a prolonged period of neglect, the intent was to update the interiors without compromising their historical essence. “We designed the house in a very open way, aiming to create spaces that support any kind of way of life,” Manuel expresses.

The site is an anomaly within the city, boasting a spacious private garden and clear views of the Lisbon Cathedral and Tagus River. “A garden facing the river, that is a very interesting position to have in the city of Lisbon,” Manuel says. This led the architect to design the home around the concept of using the outdoor space as the main space of the house. “We spend most of our time outside, either in the garden or under the shadow of the plants that we love,” he says.

The interiors showcase Manuel’s expertise in honouring a building’s history while grounding it in the present. “I like the idea of finding moments in history that you can re-adapt; it makes working with historical buildings so fascinating,” he says. The architect exposed parts of the building’s ancient stone walls and floors, pairing them with clean white walls and soft arches.

The eclectic mix of furniture, lighting, artwork and objects is sourced primarily from local Flea Markets, imbuing the spaces with a lived-in, antique quality that seamlessly coexists with the 21st century. Upon closer inspection, one can notice nods to the building’s history, like an artwork portraying the 1755 Lisbon Earthquake, which resulted in the reconstruction of the Rua De São Mamede.

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The architect left parts of the building’s ancient stone walls and floors exposed, pairing them with clean white walls and soft arches.

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Despite only occupying the ground level of the building, the architect has employed different floor heights to make journeying through the house a unique experience.

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The spaces also embody Manuel’s belief that a house should be dynamic. “I like the way we continue to change the meaning of the spaces over time. For instance, we now use the dining room more to work than to eat dinner, and the kitchen feels like a living room because we added a couch there.” This ever-evolving narrative ensures that the home can continue to support the family for the next however-many decades. “I think this is very positive for a house because I’m probably going to die here,” Manuel laughs.

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A former cistern, once used to store water, which the architect spontaneously rediscovered during the design process, has been converted into a rumpus room.

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The spaces are designed to be dynamic; this space, for example, is used as both a workspace and a dining area.

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The house includes a spacious private garden that faces the river, which Manuel says is a rare occurrence in the city of Lisbon.

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